Marlis Albrecht experimented with many artistic forms of expression and materials until she made her personal discovery of beeswax in 1994, thereafter turning to figurative painting. As of this time she has been working constantly and almost exclusively with this natural product. In concentrating on wax as a flexible medium, the artist has developed a highly sophisticated and unique mixing technique for warm and cold wax that has neither a direct role model nor any parallels with contemporary artists. When it comes to painting using wax, nationally speaking only the artist Martin Assig (Berlin) springs to mind, and internationally only Jasper Johns deserves a mention; yet both these artists also use, or predominantly use, different techniques.
Empowered by her long-practised technical know-how, Marlis Albrecht applies her wax painting technique to both delineate precise details as well as to render blurred, vague, and imaginary shapes and images. She layers the melted beeswax, coloured with various pigments, by pouring, brushing, and lovingly applying it with a palette knife onto the painting’s wooden or canvas surface. The term encaustic is too limited a word to describe this process: Marlis Albrecht has made a solemn pact with the medium wax to generate own worlds. Her complex creations, their waxen surfaces partially moulded in relief, are brought to life by the artist caringly scratching, scraping, and carving her chosen material, adding cold wax tempera and then reapplying hot wax, creating overlaps and then removing individual layers again. The formability of the medium permits smooth and rough surfaces as well as impastos, venturing from the two-dimensional view of a panel painting into the third dimension. This technique also enables a particular kind of colourfulness, since the pigment density in the molten wax determines the colour intensity. Faces and skin are typically composed of shimmering layers of wax with depth and three dimensions. The transition between expansively worked areas and the detailed ornamentation of the figures’ clothing is occasionally supported by collaging with fabrics, papers, or other materials. And yet the key material is always wax, which for Marlis Albrecht epitomises the multifacetedness of life and is especially well-suited as a medium for depicting the diverse dimensions of the human soul. For her wax is much more than a mere material – it communicates content.
Dr. Gisela Hack-Molitor
cut out from: Marlis Albrecht, Menschen Wachsen – people grow in wax – de la cire et de gents,
Horb am Neckar: Verlag Andreas Hackenberg, 2. Auflage 2013
With regard to increasingly shifting her focus to painting woodland motifs, the artist gives this explanation: “It has taken a long time until the point when I felt: now you are ready to also paint woodlands. To me, those are the woods of my childhood in Poppenweiler (suburb of Ludwigsburg), both a magical forest and spiritual place.”
From the outset, Marlis Albrecht’s statement regarding woodlands invokes a level of thought which integrates this type of landscape with humans beings and their basic spiritual needs. Ever since the Romanticist period, at the latest, woodlands have been established in art as an archetype of landscape as a motif. It can be a symbol for growth and decay, for a place of safety and of danger and can thus be employed metaphorically, depicting topics of life itself that remain valid without temporal limitation.
Marlis Albrecht’s wax paintings create either contemplative or vibrant landscapes, but all of them induce in the viewer a mood of meditation. In their composition, elements of neo-expressivism as well as of neo-impressionism make themselves felt. Thus, in some of the woodland paintings, a visual tribute to Louis Corinth’s use of light in his atmospheric paintings can be discovered in her works. Other ones call to mind early Tachist works by Günther C. Kirchberger. Some of these works, as contemporary atmospheric paintings, may contain an element of irritation, which finds parallels in the oeuvre of an artist such as Henning von Gierke.
Similarly, as in Romanticist and Neo-Romanticist painting, physical topography is eclipsed by the creation of a landscape of the mind. Thickets or clearings are placed to guide the viewer through the depths of deserted moonlit space. Discoloured sunlight barely penetrates the mist in one place, or a fire of fallen leaves or a hillside shrouded in mist blocks the horizon and eliminates the impression of depth entirely. In another instance, the outer limits of the picture are chosen to create a fragmented view of trees and of the woods.
In playing with the perceptions of distance, Marlis Albrecht again has her wax at hand with its properties of obscuring contours. She experimented with hot and cold wax, testing how in the melting process pigments spread out or concentrate in a particular place – tender brushstrokes next to areas coloured in a pointilist manner, sometimes in figurative, sometimes in abstract composition, to create atmospheric landscapes; the artist avails herself of our desire for a pure, original state as it could never exist in real woodland nature.
Marlis Albrecht’s virtuosity is manifested in creating an object that, by the very nature of its material, resists being produced according to a pre composed plan: “The initial idea reshapes in the course of the work process with dynamics of its own. The picture proceeds layer by layer, the piece of work, as it develops, repeatedly making new types of demands until I have arrived at the topmost layer and at last, the painting attains a satisfactory whole.”
Through their atmosphere brought about by translucent wax shaping the light, Marlis Albrecht’s paintings exude an air of the transcendental and a physical lightness. In the artist’s words, they mirror “a desire for desire, by which I mean some power of being able to make designs for the way we live“. The symbolic significance of the woodlands, being more important than their atmosphere and representing a demand that the artist makes through her work, makes her discussion of the position of the woodland motif appropriate for our era.
Dr. Irmgard Sedler
cut out from: Atmos, Marlis Albrecht
Wasmuth-editions, Tübingen, 2016